One of my favorite childhood memories is playing the game Hide and Seek. I remember being perched high in the branches of the Magnolia tree in our front yard, hearing my brother shout, “Ready or not, here I come!” I felt like a princess in a turret of a castle watching my playmates below as they were found or were able to run to home base where they were safe.
Mother Teresa stated, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for.” As a result of this heartbreaking reality, some of us spend a lifetime playing Hide and Seek, but not in the same way children play. We put a smile on our faces and practice the art of hiding our true selves from others. Because of painful relationships in the past, we work hard to protect ourselves from being hurt again. In time we learn to give an evasive and sometimes dishonest answer to the simple question, “How are you?” Believing the lie that says “If people really know me they will hate me” we become skilled at asking deflecting questions in order to draw other people out, secretly hoping to hide ourselves away.
With this thought in mind, I wrote the following in my journal many years ago.
You lost me one day, in your hurried pace of life…somewhere behind an accomplished task. I waited for you, only to be lost on another day. The last time you lost me on an island all of my own. I no longer wait, for my island has become a shelter from the waves of loneliness. But still the waves come.
God didn’t create us to hide, but to seek intimacy with Him, which will result in a desire to open our hearts to the safe people He brings into our lives. On this “safe base” we are able to recognize one another’s strengths and weaknesses and work together to fill in the gaps.
This sounds delightful…ah, if only it was that easy! We live in a sinful world where wounded people hurt others. As a result of relational struggles, many of us seek hiding places. This is not new to our culture. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
When Adam and Eve chose to believe that God was not enough to satisfy all their needs a great strain was placed on relationships. In their fear and shame, they played the first game of Hide and Seek and hid from the One whom they had formerly experienced deep intimacy with. Sadly, even though they were not alone, they were lonely.
Most of us have felt lonely at some point in our lives. Loneliness is different from being alone. It is not the absence of faces; it’s the absence of intimacy. We can be surrounded by people but still feel lonely. Thankfully, God has a solution. Since the fall of man, He has been at work restoring relational order. Because of what Christ did on the cross, relationships that were once separated can be rebuilt through Him. This restoration is intended to be experienced in community.
Because of the abusive things in my childhood I built a wall of protection around my heart that brought some relief for a while but never lasting peace. In time I recognized that this wall made me feel alone, afraid, and exhausted.
Ancient fortified cities had walls built around them with gates that could be locked tightly to keep out anyone who was considered a threat. Without realizing it, I had built a fortress where Christ was in my walled city…but I was on the throne. I thought this would keep me safe, but in reality, it was the death of intimacy. Although I was attempting to protect myself from people, my hardened heart kept me from experiencing God’s love to the fullest.
Knowing that He was going to die soon, Jesus brought His best friends together for some important last words. For three years He had faithfully explained God’s past commands, but now He had something new for them. This teaching would be essential for the unity of the church in His leave of absence: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 13:34).
Perhaps you are thinking, It’s hard enough to love others as I love myself, but it’s utterly impossible to love them like Jesus does. How could I possibly cultivate that kind of love? Thankfully, the Holy One is in the business of transformation.
Loving like Jesus doesn’t happen by following a set of rules or learning certain techniques. There is nothing we can do to force this kind of divine love to grow. It can only flow forth when we tear down our walls and open our hearts fully to the Holy One. As we allow God to control our thoughts and actions, we learn that we can trust Him because His heart is for our good. Out of this new depth of intimacy with Him, our hearts are softened to love others.
If you have been deeply hurt in the past like I was, don’t expect to have one big breakthrough that will suddenly clear away all doubt and fears. Relational patterns can be broken in time, but it is usually a gradual change that requires seeing Jesus in others and choosing to believe that He is in control of the relationship.
Even though breaking down my wall of protection was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever done, it has freed me from my own prison. Now God’s love can flow through me in remarkable ways. I can be present for others and focus on who they are by remembering that the Holy One dwells in them.
When we come out of hiding, we will see people the way Jesus sees them and go beyond the exterior and look into their hearts. Then we can be a safe place for others and find healing comfort and joy in relationships.
Bev DeSalvo describes herself as a worshiping woman who has been on an amazing spiritual journey. Raised in an abusive home that created a deep fear of intimacy, God has used her pain as a magnet to draw her to His heart. Now she takes this message of hope to hurting women all over the world and has a book, Return to Joy, that was released July 2016 by NavPress.